‘You’ll Do Just What You Choose To Do . . .’

It was small version of one of those, “Whoa, that’s out of place” moments. I was running through the Billboard Hot 100 from October 3, 1970 – forty-one weeks ago yesterday – scanning titles for something interesting.

And there, at No. 104 in the Bubbling Under section, I saw “Alone Again Or” by Love. That didn’t make sense. Love released “Alone Again Or” on the lush and classic 1967 album Forever Changes. Wouldn’t the single of “Alone Again Or” have been released about that time?

Well, it was. Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles lists “Alone Again Or” (b/w “A House Is Not A Motel”) as having entered the Hot 100’s Bubbling Under section in May 1968. It spent two weeks there and peaked at No. 123. And then Elektra released another version of the single in 1970, a version noted by Whitburn as a “longer version.” That single – the one I saw at No. 104 in the October 3, 1970, Hot 100 – was backed with “Good Times” and peaked at No. 99.

Longer than what, though? Longer than the earlier single release, obviously, but trying – at this late date without actually having a copy of the first single release in hand – to determine how long that original release was and how long the second release might have been is a foolish game. All I can say is that on Forever Changes, the track ran 3:15. At least that’s the listed length on my copy of the album, which is on Elektra but is dated 1971. (All-Music Guide says the track on the 1967 release ran 3:16.) Other running times listed at AMG for “Alone Again Or” on different releases of Forever Changes are either right around 2:55 or around 3:16.

That leads me to believe – not with any great faith, however – that the single Elektra released in 1967 was something short of three minutes and the single released by the label in 1970 was the full track – perhaps a different mix – running about 3:16. That belief is bolstered a little by the discovery on line of a photo of a 45 label for “Alone Again Or” with the 1967 catalog number that claims a running time of 2:49. If that running time is correct – and running times on labels are of course notoriously unreliable – then the 1967 single was an edit of the album version that ran 3:15 or 3:16.

But we’ll leave that quest be and simply consider the track, which is one I don’t know well but should. I wrote once about my first exposure to Love after finding the group’s Out Here sometime around 1971 in a record store/head shop located in a rundown St. Cloud hotel. I didn’t get Love’s music then, and even though I picked up a couple of albums in the 1990s, I still don’t know the group’s music as well as I’d like.

So as I listened to a version of “Alone Again Or” this morning, I checked what AMG said about the song. Citing the notes in a reissue of Forever Changes, Stewart Mason writes: “[P]roducer Bruce Botnick points out that in the crowded pop marketplace of mid-’60s AM radio, Love’s competition wasn’t just the Beatles or the Mamas and the Papas, but mainstream easy listening acts like Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass; as a result, the flamenco-based ‘Alone Again Or’ features not only a fully-realized string section (by David Angel), but also a Mexican-flavored horn section featuring a climactic trumpet solo that sounds like it could have been played by Mr. A&M Records himself.” (That last is a reference to trumpeter and label owner Herb Alpert.)

Mason goes on to say “Written by second guitarist Bryan MacLean in the early ’60s in musical tribute to his mother, a flamenco dancer, ‘Alone Again Or’ is lushly beautiful, but also achingly sad . . . [I]t fits perfectly as the start of Forever Changes, a jaundiced ‘no thank you’ to the supposed sunshine and good vibes of the Summer of Love as well as Arthur Lee’s own Pet Sounds, the album he intended as his personal artistic summation.”

And here is, I think, the album version of “Alone Again Or.”


3 Responses to “‘You’ll Do Just What You Choose To Do . . .’”

  1. Larry Grogan says:

    That’s a great story. I’m a HUGE Love fan, but never knew about that late single.

  2. Steve E. says:

    The single got a lot of airplay in Southern California at the time of its original release, peaking at No. 7 on KHJ in spring 1968. It’s exquisite — the gentle acoustic guitar that starts each verse, the strings, the flamenco-sounding trumpet, the fabulous harmonies and the mysterious lyrics. Funny that my favorite Love song was NOT written by Arthur Lee.

  3. Yah Shure says:

    That is the LP version you linked to. I checked the exact playing times: my vinyl copy on ‘Revisited’ runs 3:13. The 1968 45 clocks in at 2:46. I passed on the 1970 45 at the time, since I already owned the first issue.

    There are a couple of interesting things about the ’68 single. For starters, it was one of the earliest of the second generation of commercial stereo 45s to hit the market (the format never caught fire when first introduced around 1959. Compatibility problems with existing phono cartridges and higher retail prices didn’t help matters.) It was also one of those Haeco-CSG-processed abominations that were supposed to maintain an even channel balance when summed to mono, for AM airplay. The phase manipulation involved may have made for a more-acceptable mono compromise, but the stereo content itself sounded unfocused and hollow in the middle.

    As for the song itself, the single was edited in each of the soft, acoustic portions except for the ending.

    In my Whitburn Pop Annual, the time listed for the 1970 re-do is 2:50. Under the ’68 single’s entry in my Whitburn Bubbling Under chart book, Joel refers to the 1970 #99 release as “an enhanced version,” and that’s what it really is: embellished with additional instrumentation to pack more of a wallop over the airwaves. The difference between it and the original mix is quite apparent.

    The timing of the release of the 1968 single makes me wonder whether the smash success U.K. success of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich’s flamenco/bullwhip-infused “The Legend Of Xanadu” might have been a factor in green-lighting the Love track.

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